The internet has been a revolutionary prism because lets millions seamlessly access anything you produce. However, it has problems with monetization. Currently the only two options for creators is to partner with ad companies or to sell premium products. Ads require millions of hits to earn creators a sum of money they can live off of. Paid subscriptions significantly limit the amount of fans the creator can engage.
Consumers' hatred of ads is increasing as they have taken over some websites, slowing them down. They have a right to be weary of ads because they don't provide a good experience. Websites' use of ads is equivalent to poking at a hornet's nest. Eventually there will be a revolution against them. We've already seen this occur with the prevalence of online ad-blockers. Ad-blocking has grown 41% globally in the past 12 months. Sixteen percent of internet users in America blocked ads. This has caused $10.7 billion in projected losses of ad revenues in America and $21.8 billion of global revenues lost.
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) sees this problem occurring on its mobile devices which is why on iOS 9 it will let users download ad-blocking apps which will prevent ads being shown on webpages. Apple will still allow for ads to be shown in apps probably because it gets a 30% cut of the money apps earn. Either way, this will accelerate the decline of ad supported content on the internet. Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) recently eliminated the auto-playing of flash player ads with the goal of replacing them with HTML5 based ads to provide better load times for consumers. This tells us that even Google recognizes that banner and video ads are ineffective in their current state.
This isn't to say that all ads are going to be gone from the internet anytime soon. However, there will be less of them in the future; the ones you do see will be targeted. Google search ads are a legitimate placement of ads because they are only shown when the consumer is actually looking for a particular product. Facebook native ads are great at targeting consumers because Facebook knows what the user likes. Instagram ads are the best ads on the internet, in my opinion. They are beautifully designed. They are better quality than the other pictures/videos in my newsfeed.
Personally, I am a proponent of the death of the banner ad. While this causes much angst in the hearts of online publishers now, it will usher in a better future. Micropayments with Bitcoin (Pending:COIN) (OTCQX:GBTC) will support content creators. Currently we lack a payment method which seamlessly lets users pay for content. Bitcoin eliminates the privacy concerns users may have with having to pay for websites which they don't trust. Bitcoin pushes the trust from the payment processors and firms providing the products to the protocol. In this way, Bitcoin is a trustless system. Bitcoin's lack of fees allows for micropayments to become viable. Micropayments are the only way a user would be willing to pay for content. Micropayments will join likes and shares as a currency on the internet.
The most well capitalized Bitcoin startup is 21 Inc. It aims to put a chip in devices which allows them to mine a small amount of Bitcoin. Just from running the device, consuming energy, and connecting it to the internet it can earn a small amount of Bitcoin. This will grease the wheels of the consumer. Having a small amount of Bitcoin will incentivize micropayments. It is the perfect way to get consumers used to paying for content because there will be no other use for fractions of a Bitcoin. It's not like you could buy a physical item with the money.
I think when consumers pay for content it will be a revolutionary experience. Right now authors have the incentive to write about the same topics because it is what drives page views. This is why hundreds of bloggers cover Apple. With micropayments becoming popular, it will finally encourage niche content to be created. Because there are so many articles on Apple, the price writers can charge for them will be low. Differentiated content which fills a niche will be able to be sold for higher prices. Writers will stop chasing the clicks and instead chase the reliable readers who will reward good content with their support.
This problem is the reason why we tend to see content creators aimed at making viral YouTube videos which offer little value outside of entertainment. I am not implying that they don't have any value, but I am saying substantive content should be equally monetarily rewarded. Substantive videos will never earn the amount of views as entertaining ones, but micropayments can allow for them to earn a similar amount of money.
There is a startup company called Streamium which attempts to solve this issue. Streamium is the Bitcoin version of Periscope. It lets creators set an hourly rate to charge viewers. If you have ever used Periscope, you may notice that attractive women tend to get the lion share of viewers. Let's be honest, part of the reason why the top Periscoper Amanda Oleander has so many followers is her good looks. Besides this type of content, Periscopers are often pressed to appeal to the lowest version of humor to entertain the most people possible. Speaking in depth about complex issues appeals to less people, but it should not be penalized because of this if it is providing great value. This is why payments make sense. Payments encourage great content, thus leveling the playing field. Their low rates allow for anyone to participate.
This could revolutionize education. Instead of Harvard only accepting a certain amount of students in a class, it can accept anyone who is willing to pay $2 per hour. To explain this another way, look at the tutoring market. Personal tutors can charge less if they are teaching 3 students at a time. What if they could tutor 20 students at a time who could ask questions in real-time? They could charge even less. I think it is a forgone conclusion that education will be revolutionized by technology. Surprisingly college has only had evolutionary advancements caused by the internet. Hopefully, Bitcoin can break down these barriers completely and allow anyone to get an amazing education.
I believe so fervently in this micropayment method of monetizing content that I am creating my own startup company built around the concept. Satoshi Investors is a crowd-sourced financial website which charges readers in Bitcoin micropayments. You can learn more about it in the video below. Without a doubt, I am expecting the adoption to be slow at first, but if it does work out it could transform the way we consume content. This is just one aspect of Bitcoin which will transform our lives, but if it ends up being one of the first, it could cause the value of Bitcoin to increase.
Bitcoin is still in its early stages which led Andreas Antonopoulos to say "Greece isn't ready for Bitcoin, and Bitcoin isn't ready for Greece." It cannot support mainstream adoption yet. Even I haven't put a significant amount money in Bitcoin because I have had hard time finding the proper secure wallet to use to store my Bitcoins. Digital wallets are fine for keeping spending money in them, but physical wallets or cold storage is the best way to secure your wealth. The most interesting wallet is called Case which begins shipment on September 21st. It requires the user to scan his/her finger for authentication and doesn't require a computer to use. Its cost of $199 should be able to be lowered in the next few years when mainstream users start ordering them. This probably won't happen for a few years as I believe we are still in the 'early adopters' category on the chart below.
It is difficult to figure out exactly how many people use Bitcoin, but accordingto a survey of 500 Americans 10% of them said they were highly likely to use Bitcoin in 2015. Since the innovators category only has 2.5% of the total users, this makes me believe we are currently in the 'early adopters' category.
As you can see from the chart below, which comes from the CoinDesk "State of Bitcoin Q2 2015" slideshow Bitcoin is receiving more venture capital investments than internet startups received in 1996. This leads me to believe we will exit the 'early adopters' stage in a few years.
Although holding a significant amount of Bitcoin may seem risky to you, I would reply that holding a significant amount of a fiat currency is also risky because of inflation. As you can see from the chart below, the value of $100 in 1900 is only worth $3.48 today. I don't look at holding Bitcoin as an investment because that implies that I am telling you to cash it back into dollars. Instead should use it to make day-to-day transactions. You should use it as a currency for security reasons. Trusting your personal information in a company such as Target exposes you to the possibility of it being hacked and causing you to lose your privacy.
Additional disclosure: I own Bitcoin.